This well proportioned English orchestral instrument
was made by William Howarth in 1894. It bears his original printed
label which is affixed to the treble side back - just below the
central brace. Although the label is partially torn it clearly states
"William Howarth Double Bass Maker April 21-94." The
date and word maker being hand written in black ink.
Also visible on the inside back - this time on the
upper bass-side - is a fairly large character inscription in black
ink "Made by Wm. Howarth - April 21/94." Another inscription
with identical wording to this was found on the underside (side
glued to table) of the original bass bar. How do you know that?
- is the question that you must all be thinking now. In replacing
the original bar with a new one - which is what we did - the method
used is to reduce the original bar down to nothing with a plane
before the new one can be fitted. Nearing the end of this job -
the inscription could clearly be read in reverse through the wafer
thin remnants of the original bar. Photos of this were taken and
stored in our restorers computer. As fate would have it - the computer
crashed and todate we have been unable to retrieve these images.
The instrument bears a printed repairers label on
the inside upper treble-side back. "WILLIAM SKELHORN, ALTRINGHAM,
CHESHIRE. JANUARY 1951."
The instrument bears the number 18 - more probably
an upside-down figure 81 - which is branded twice on the bass side
scroll. One of the brands is right in the centre of the eye, the
other is directly above the first - near to the outer edge of the
scroll. What do these numbers mean? We can't be sure but it
is possible that this instrument belonged to an army band at one
stage of its life.
This is a viol shaped instrument with a flat back
and upper angle break. The two piece maple back is nicely figured
with a flaming that descends from the centre joint. The ribs and
scroll show flaming that is well matched to that of the back. The
table is made from spruce of a medium grain. The arching is medium
high in a sort of "Amatese" style. The F's are relatively
narrow. The original varnish is a spirit based red-brown colour
which has been applied over a yellow ground.
Not much. Background information on Howarth is sparse.
What we can tell you is gained from instruments that we have seen.
These include a violin outline instrument which we sold a number
of years ago and the remnants of a later (1919) instrument - which
still bears his original hand written label that informs us that
he worked in Manchester - "W. Howarth, Stanley House, Stanley
Epln, J(could be an F or aT)eryoyht, Manchester."
Although we have only had the privilege to examine
these three instruments it is clear from the quality and workmanship
of them that Howarth was a professional maker who attained a high
standard of craftsmanship and who in all probability produced
a moderate output of double bass instruments. Some years ago it
was reported to us that one of his violin outline instruments
was of such fine quality that it was successfully passed off to
a player as an original Lott - an allegation that must surely
raise Howarth's standing as a maker in the hierarchy of the many
fine late 19th century and early 20th century English bass makers.
I note with interest that you have a double bass
by William Howarth for sale. I also own a bass by this maker. Mine
is violin shaped with an unusually short scroll. It is branded
William Howarth below the edge of one of the bouts and for your
interest, the label inside (below and to the side of the sound
William Howarth Maker
May 6 1899
24 Horton Street
The label is printed, apart from May, 6 and 99 which
are written in ink.
I once saw a similar instrument to mine which
was owned by a player in the BBC Northern Orchestra (now Philharmonic)
and heard of another that was reputedly owned by an amateur orchestra
in Manchester in the 1970’s. I played with the Hallé Orchestra
in Manchester for 28 years, may retire soon and may wish to sell
my instrument. In which case I may ask you for your interest. Meanwhile,
I hope this adds to your knowledge about this fine maker.
Paul M, UK"
The instrument now benefits from the fitment of a
nicely flamed new neck and fingerboard. Internally the instrument
boasts a new bass bar of the correct length and proportions and
all cracks have been washed out, reglued and re-studded. This is
indeed a well presented instrument in A1 structural condition.
Tone quality can be described as full, deep, dark
and sonorous while volume can only be described as considerable.
Contributing to this overall glorious sound must surely be the incredible
depth of the ribs. Near to the end pin unit a maximum of 23.9cm
(including the plates) can be measured. "I had to make up a
completely new set of clamps to accommodate this instrument"
was the comment from restorer M.J. Bailey. Job well done were my
thoughts. This is indeed a quality instrument with a quality sound
that will definitely create the right impression in any situation.
Width at the upper bout 22.0in (55.8cm)
Width at the middle bout 15.75in (39.9cm)
Width at the lower bout 27.65in (70.2cm)
LOB 44.65in (113.6cm)
St length 42.1cm (107.0cm)